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The Game Is You: Adding Years to Your Life

09/07/2013 11:24 am ET | Updated Nov 07, 2013

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

"I'm a gamer," said Jane McGonigal in her TEDTalk. "So I like to have
goals, like special missions, and secret objectives," she added. "So here's
my special mission for this talk. I'm gonna try to increase the life span of
every reasonable person in this room by 7 1/2 minutes." Jane McGonigal, is a
game designer, has a Ph.D. from Berkeley, author of Reality is Broken, and
has researched the psychology of games for over a decade. She makes a bold
statement on the TED stage in her talk, "The game that can give you 10 extra
years of life."

In an audacious move by McGonigal claiming to increase the lifespan of her
audience, McGonigal , for demonstration purposes, gave the audience simple
challenges to boost four types of resilience -- physical, mental, emotional
and social; which in turn will add 7 1/2 minutes to their life, she said.

And McGonigal concludes that "people who regularly boost these four types of
resilience -- physical, mental, emotional, and social live 10 years longer
than everyone else."

Let's back up a moment and put gaming into perspective.

Video games are a multibillion-dollar industry, the average player is 30
years old, forty-five percent of all game players are women, and thirty-six
percent of gamers play games on their Smartphone, and 25 percent play games
on their wireless device, according to
the Entertainment Software
Association.

And, gaming or gamification in health is a hot topic today.

In gamification, people choose to set a goal and they can reach that goal
with motivation, challenges and collaboration from friends and family.
Gamification is about engagement, interaction, collaboration, and shared
efforts to achieve the "win."

Michael Wu, PhD, principle scientist of analytics at Lithium Technologies
defines gamification in this way, "Gamification is merely a tool for
driving behaviors, which include engagement, interaction, competition,
collaboration, awareness, learning, even to the extreme of obsession, and
much more."

And while FiercehealthIT reports
icial-clinical-healthcare-/2012-05-29> that the, "University of Pittsburgh
researchers say video games as a powerful tool for improving patient health,
according to a
study
just published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine," it's just
that, as Wu stated, "merely a tool."

Employers are getting into the gaming space with "tools" for employees to
improve and achieve their health and wellness goals; including ShapeUP,
Healthrageous and S2H Challenge. SuperBetter, an online game designed to
help you achieve your health and wellness goals was created by Jane
McGonigal after she suffered a severe concussion.

But, the important message about gaming, about gamification, about "adding
years to your life," has to do with YOU. Did you notice that McGonigal's
talk is titled, "The game that can give you 10 extra years of life"? It
doesn't say, "The game that will give you 10 extra years of life." There's a
big difference between "can" and "will."

You aren't going to have Jane McGonigal sitting next to you
each day telling you what to do to increase your lifespan by minutes or
years, and she's not going to be there to provide you with challenges to
increase your resilience -- physical, mental, emotional or social resilience. -- Barbara Ficarra

Yes, the mechanics of the games, the "tools" needed to achieve health and
wellness goals, must be engaging and provide a level of excitement and an
element for collaboration, but ultimately, your health and wellness goals
start with YOU. You aren't going to have Jane McGonigal sitting next to you
each day telling you what to do to increase your lifespan by minutes or
years, and she's not going to be there to provide you with challenges to
increase your resilience -- physical, mental, emotional or social resilience.
For example, telling you to count backwards from 100 by 7, raise your arms
high in the air, snap your fingers exactly 50 times, or shake someone's
hand. Health and wellness goals and lifestyle changes begin with you. You
can have a happier and healthier life if you choose to take steps to create
the life you want. By taking personal responsibility for your own
well-being, you have the power to add years to your life.

B.J. Fogg , author of Persuasive
Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do
, and
psychologist, directs the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University, states
that "three elements must converge at the same moment for a behavior to
occur: Motivation, Ability, and Trigger."

So when you ultimately decide you want to achieve your health and wellness
goals, whether it's eating healthier, losing weight, sleeping better, or
increasing your physical activity, gaming may help, but remember, games are
only tools. You have the power to move the tools. You can be inspired by
others, such as friends and family in your social networks and games can
help ignite behavior change, but it first begins with YOU. Motivation to
live a happier and healthier life first begins with the power of you. You
can add years to your life.

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